Synthetic organs, nanobots and DNA ’scissors’: the future of medicine

Nanobots that patrol our bodies, killer immune cells hunting and destroying cancer cells, biological scissors that cut out defective genes: these are just some of technologies that Cambridge researchers are developing which are set to revolutionise medicine in the future.
In a new film to coincide with the recent launch of the Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences , researchers discuss some of the most exciting developments in medical research and set out their vision for the next 50 years.

Professor Jeremy Baumberg from the NanoPhotonics Centre discusses a future in which diagnoses do not have to rely on asking a patient how they are feeling, but rather are carried out by nanomachines that patrol our bodies, looking for and repairing problems. Professor Michelle Oyen from the Department of Engineering talks about using artificial scaffolds to create ’off-the-shelf’ replacement organs that could help solve the shortage of donated organs. Dr Sanjay Sinha from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Stem Cell Institute sees us using stem cell ’patches’ to repair damaged hearts and return their function back to normal.

Dr Alasdair Russell from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute describes how recent breakthroughs in the use of CRISPR-Cas9 - a DNA editing tool - will enable us to snip out and replace defective regions of the genome, curing diseases in individual patients; and lawyer Dr Kathy Liddell , from the Cambridge Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences, highlights how research around law and ethics will help to make gene editing safe.

Professor Gillian Griffiths , Director of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, envisages us weaponising ’killer T cells’ - important immune system warriors - to hunt down and destroy even the most evasive of cancer cells.

All of these developments will help transform the field of medicine, says Professor Chris Lowe , Director of the Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences, who sees this as an exciting time for medicine. New developments have the potential to transform healthcare "right the way from how you handle the patient to actually delivering the final therapeutic product - and that’s the exciting thing".

Read more about research on future therapeutics in  Research Horizons  magazine.